From small gifts in shoes and opening presents on Christmas Eve to real candles on trees, Jenni Fuchs from The Bear and The Fox blog tells us how she combines Christmas traditions for her half Scottish, half German family...
Can you believe that when I was growing up, we didn’t have stockings at Christmas? Gasp! That’s because I grew up in a German family, and we celebrate Christmas a little differently.
In the part of Germany my family is from, it’s not actually Santa who brings the presents but ‘Christkind’, which literally translates as ‘Christ child’ but is usually envisaged as a Heavenly angel type character. And the presents are delivered – and opened! – on Christmas Eve, not Christmas Day.
Our living room would be off bounds from the morning of Christmas Eve, when my mum would decorate the Christmas tree behind closed doors.
Yes, that’s right, in German tradition you generally don’t put your tree up until Christmas Eve! It’s also fairly rare for people to have artificial trees, possibly because many people still use actual candles on their tree, which is only safe to do with a real tree.
So, in the early evening, after a visit to church, it was the time us children most anticipated – ‘Bescherung’, which literally translates as ‘the gifting of presents’. A little bell would ring out, to signal Christkind’s arrival, and we would rush through the doors to find the lit tree, with a pile of presents underneath, but no Christkind! No matter how quick we were, we always missed her.
We do have something similar to stockings in German tradition though, and that’s when we celebrate St Nicholas Day on the 6th December. The evening before, children all put out one of their shoes outside their door – freshly polished, of course - and if they have been good, St Nicholas will come during the night and fill it with chocolate, oranges and nuts, and small gifts. Sound familiar?
If you have been naughty, you may be at risk of finding a rod in your shoe instead of treats, and if you are greedy and e.g. put out your dad’s big boot instead of your own shoe, you may find it filled with rocks! Luckily, neither of those things ever happened to us (and if your shoe is really small, St Nicholas will often leave a gift next to it).
It varies a bit from region to region, some children put out stockings instead of shoes, or even plates, but it’s all the same principal. St Nicholas is of course where we get Santa from, though in contrast to his namesake he is usually depicted wearing a bishop’s hat (mitre) and robes, and carrying a staff.
So how do I celebrate Christmas with my own kids today? Well, being a half German and half Scottish family, it’s a bit of a challenge trying to fit three different gift bringers from two different traditions under one hat.
We do actually celebrate St Nicholas Day, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, with all three gift bringers, but what the kids don’t know is that they don’t actually get more presents that way, we just spread them out more!
And to keep things simple, Christkind just brings everyone one special gift each on Christmas Eve, Santa fills the stockings on Christmas Day, and the remaining presents are from friends and relatives and get split between the two days.
So far neither of the kids (aged 4 and 8) have questioned why there are three people bringing presents at Christmas, or why they don’t coordinate better with each other!